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Monday, July 09, 2007

Riding with the peleton and running with the bulls

Riding with the peleton and running with the bulls

I go along, day after day, living my life here pretty much taking many things for granted. I’m in another country and the language is different but the mundane aspects of daily life are pretty much the same everywhere. You eat, drink coffee, exercise, read, watch television, or whatever. I go for weeks at a time barely recognizing the fact that I am living in a culture that is markedly different than my own. I try to blend in as much as I can. I know my way around Valencia better than most and I am killing myself trying to hammer Spanish into my head. As my Spanish improves and I become more familiar with how things are done here, my life becomes more normal. And then every once in a while something hits me and I realize than things are very unusual in my new home.

Sometimes it’s something really insignificant that leads me to this thought. Just this weekend I couldn’t stop thinking about how odd it is to see the Tour de France live and in the late afternoon. In Seattle there is something like a ten hour time difference so on some days I would go to my gym at six in the morning to watch the live broadcast of the day’s race, but most of the time I would watch the rebroadcast that starts at eleven in the morning.

For a Tour de France kook like me it’s pretty cool to see it on TV live, although I miss Phil Ligget and Paul Sherwin, the great announcers on the Outdoor Life Network. It is also great to have two entire pages of the newspaper dedicated to the Tour every day. They have their priorities straight here. I am thinking about heading up to the Pyrenees in a couple weeks with my bike to catch one of the great mountain stages when the race passes through Spain. I have climbed bigger mountains in Washington than anything they do in the Tour. Granted, I never climb three or four big passes in one day but still, we got big mountains in Washington. Climbing up Mount Rainier would make a great finish for a Tour stage.

July 7th was also the beginning of the festival of San Fermín in Pamplona, or the running of the bulls. Every day at 8 a.m. they show all of the crazy drunks running through the street being chased by huge bulls. If you aren’t up at 8 you can see the rebroadcasts all day long. Yesterday nine people got gored. Just good, clean fun as far as the Spanish are concerned. I have never had any desire to go to this festival and I definitely wouldn’t care to take my chances in a sprinting match with a 500 kilo bull. As I told a Spanish friend, this is one aspect of Spanish life that I don’t mind experiencing on television. Getting gored by a bull isn’t on my “to do” list while I make this place my home.

One thing that is very easy to get used to here is the weather. It is just about perfect. It is sunny and hot during the day and then when the sun goes down it cools off considerably. The humidity is rather low which is common in the Mediterranean basin. It is exactly how I remembered it from the years that I lived in Greece.

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